Myth or reality: Saffron is a natural antidepressant

“Safranal, found in saffron, gives it a distinct taste and aroma. Research shows it can help improve mood, memory and learning ability, as well as protect brain cells from oxidative stress,” said Dr Eileen Canday, HOD, Nutrition and Dietetics, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai

Saffron contains bioactive compounds, including crocin, safranal and picrocrocin, which are thought to contribute to its antidepressant effects.Saffron contains bioactive compounds, including crocin, safranal and picrocrocin, which are thought to contribute to its antidepressant effects. (Photo source: Freepik)

Golden Spice Saffron is one of the most expensive spices as it can take 75,000 saffron flowers to produce one pound of saffron spice. It is packed with flavor and is used in both sweet and savory dishes to enhance the taste. However, saffron also has amazing health benefits, one of which is a natural antidepressant.

There have been a number of studies examining the potential antidepressant effects of saffron. Some of these have found that saffron supplementation can improve symptoms in people with mild to moderate depression, often to a similar extent to conventional antidepressant medications, Pratiksha Kadam, consultant, dietitian, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital told indianexpress.com. Navi Mumbai.

Why is saffron a natural antidepressant?

Saffron contains bioactive compounds, including crocin, safranal and picrocrocin, which are thought to contribute to its antidepressant effects. These compounds have been shown to modulate certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopaminewhich play a crucial role in mood regulation.

A meta-analysis published in Journal of Integrative Medicine in 2020 reviewed 21 clinical trials involving over 1,500 participants and concluded that supplementing with saffron had a significant effect antidepressant effect compared to a placebo. Studies have reported improvements in depressive symptoms, including reductions in anxiety and sleep disturbances, N Lakshmi, senior dietician, Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad, told indianexpress.com.

Health benefits of saffron

In addition to its potential antidepressant properties, saffron has also been studied for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cognitive-enhancing effects. Below are various health benefits of saffron shared by Dr Eileen Canday, HOD, Nutrition and Dietetics, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.

1. Powerful Antioxidant: Saffron contains an impressive variety of plant compounds. These act as antioxidant molecules that protect cells from free radicals and oxidative stress. Safranal, found in saffron, gives it a distinct taste and aroma. Research shows it can help improve your mood, memoryand learning ability, as well as protecting brain cells from oxidative stress.

Both eating and smelling saffron appear to help treat PMS symptoms, such as irritability, headaches, cravings, pain, and anxiety, and may help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (Photo source: Freepik)

2. May Improve Mood And Help With Depressive Symptoms: Sunshine spice is how people refer to saffron. According to studies, the chemicals safranal and crocin from crocus plants may have antidepressant benefits by maintaining stable levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.

3. Reduce PMS Symptoms: Both eating and smelling saffron appear to help cure Symptoms of premenstrual syndromesuch as irritability, headaches, cravings, pain and anxiety and can help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

4. Act As An Aphrodisiac:
Aphrodisiacs are substances or foods that help increase libido. Saffron may have aphrodisiac effects, especially in those using antidepressants, according to studies.

Things to keep in mind

It is worth noting that saffron should not be considered a stand-alone solution for depression or other mental health conditions. It is best used as part of a holistic approach that includes a balanced diet, regular exerciseadequate sleep, stress management techniques, and professional support when needed, N Lakshmi explained.

When using saffron, remember that a little goes a long way. This spice is very potent and using too much of it can overwhelm the flavor of your food. It’s also quite expensive, so using it sparingly can help you get the most out of every purchase.

High doses of saffron can be toxic, so it’s important to stick to culinary amounts when adding it to food. If you’re thinking about taking saffron as a supplement, be sure to talk to your doctor first, concluded Kadam.

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First published on: 2023-07-10 at 3:00 PM IST




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